Home » Which Face Do You Choose?: Cold Start

Which Face Do You Choose?: Cold Start

Cs K701
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This is kind of a tough choice, but I think it’s important, and important that we figure this out. I have here two Volkswagen K70s, VW’s first front-engined, liquid-cooled car, in its two primary front-end variants: the L version on the left, with its quad round headlamps, and the original K70 look with those big, rectangular headlights. Which do I like better? It’s actually kind of tricky to decide here, which surprises me: usually in these lighting situations, one version just hits me on a gut level, and I just know. This time, I’m really not sure.

I like the quad round lamp look a lot; it’s a classic, and looks great on many cars. But those big rectangular lamps aren’t just rectangular sealed beams, they’re bigger and have a more clear lens and overall have more depth and inner detail. They’re also not set all the way to the outer edges of the grille, which is a strange but interesting choice.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Man, I’m kinda stumped. I keep thinking I’ll choose quad round, but something about the rectangular ones makes me hesitate!

Well, I encourage all of you to take a solid 45 minutes to stare at this page and meditate on it, intently.

Cs K70 2

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While you’re doing that, it’s worth reflecting on the K70, because it’s a really interesting car. The crisp and airy design may feel a bit familiar, and if it does, that’s because you may be sensing the influence of the NSU Ro80, because the VW K70’s not-so-secret secret is that it started life as the NSU K70.

Cs K70 Nsu

The K in K70 stands for kolben, the German word for “piston.” They have a different word for everything, don’t they? Piston is noted to differentiate the car from the Ro in Ro80, which referred to the rotary Wankel engine in that car. This was supposed to be NSU’s little, more conventional sibling to the exotic Ro80. But, before that could really happen, VW bought NSU in 1969, and only about 23 NSU-badged K70s were built.

Cs K70 3

VW made a few tweaks so they could use a few parts-bin parts on the K70 and stuck VW badges on it and sold it from 1970 to 1975, introducing the world to the strange and perverse idea of a front-wheel drive, front-engine VW cooled by strange liquids like “water.” And maybe antifreeze.

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It’s funny looking at VW’s ads and brochures for the K70 because they do note that it’s “different” and unusual, even though by the standards of the rest of the world, this was the “normal” car, and VW’s air-cooled, horizontally-opposed, rear-mounted cars were the weird ones.

The K70 competed with VW’s own Type 4 line, their unibody, premium development of the old Beetle-inspired DNA. The K70 is generally considered a flop, but they did make over 200,000 of them, so it’s not really that much of a flop, because those are decent numbers, just not by ’70s VW standards, I guess.

Even though VW bought NSU, in terms of technical DNA, NSU and Auto Union (bought by VW in 1964) took over VW, and modern VW is really more of an NSU/Auto Union than it is original VW, since all the cars are front engined/FWD and not the core VW rear-engine/air-cooled. Sure, the K70’s longitudinal engine and exciting weirdness like inboard front brakes didn’t define the transverse engine orthodoxy to come, but as VW’s first liquid-cooled, front-driver, it was a fascinating harbinger of what was to come.

But I’m still not sure what face I’d pick.

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W124
W124
5 months ago

Went for the quad just because I’ve owned one! K70 is surprisingly nice car, maybe a bit spartan for modern standards even as a sweeeet luxury L version, but while quite softly sprung and thus comfortable ride the car is still very stable and great to drive even on higher speeds. NSU-roots showed up on some quirky technical details all around the car, but all around the car felt well made and thought out. Only bigger complaint is that K70 with its 1,8 liter powerplant was surprisingly thirsty.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
5 months ago

“They have a different word for everything, don’t they?”

Every time I go to a new country I ask what their word for “taxi” is.

It’s “taxi”, right?

I’m at 23 countries now.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

But in a few places (from memory, consider these unverified: Finland, Turkey, Malaysia) they spell it taksi.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
5 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

I’ve been to two of those! Finnish is very weird.

Is Travis
Is Travis
5 months ago

Passenger side rearview mirror not included*

Jblues
Jblues
5 months ago

Round headlights are infinitely cooler than square headlights. I’m sure @davidtracy would agree.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
5 months ago

In maybe the 70s and the 80s there was kind of this weird American euro car enthusiast love for the euro headlights like the dual squares on this VW, but I never really felt the love, I like the quads here and the uniform DOT approved headlights of the bygone era (you could also go most anywhere and pick a new one up for about 6 bucks if it broke or burned out).

MikeT-MA
MikeT-MA
5 months ago

However, the big riddle is this. The brochure images are in English. This was, as far as I know, a strictly Euro market vehicle. The steering wheel is on the left….what gives.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  MikeT-MA

UK not a big enough market to merit having to take new photos with an RHD car. Sometimes, they would mirror the photos and cut and paste new plates on them.

Oldskool
Oldskool
5 months ago

Quad round FTW. Gives the car an attitude! Quad rectangular would be second on the list.

Dual rectangular is just plain and boring. At least in this case. Dual rectangular can have a attitude if done right, like the early Dodge Omni fastback or early Ford EXP.

Same with my XJ, I’d much prefer the Wagoneer nose with quads.

All IMO of course.

David Escargot
David Escargot
5 months ago
Reply to  Oldskool

My thoughts exactly

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
5 months ago

It is interesting how that one little design element does change the look of the car. To me, the 4-round lamp design is something from the late 60s/early 70s and the square lamp car is something that is much more modern looking.

i think that is due to being in the US and knowing that it was the late 70s when anything other than round was allowed to be used on cars from the factory.

Cuzn Ed
Cuzn Ed
5 months ago

From the ad at the top… Do the round headlights indicate “luxury”? And by “luxury”, do they just mean “less ugly”?

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Cuzn Ed

The quad lights were only for the K70L (for Luxus), which featured some extra equipment: adjustable seat backs, seatback pockets, posher upholstery, a rear armrest, make-up mirrors in the sun visors, locking glove compartment, trip meter, chrome trim on the door cards, trunk light, rubber bumper trim, and a locking fuel tank lid after 1973. It also has 15hp more thanks to a higher compression ratio, but required higher-octane fuel. Ta-da!

Cuzn Ed
Cuzn Ed
5 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Hey, wow – all that and less ugly!

Thanks for sharing that info.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
4 months ago
Reply to  Cuzn Ed

Anything rather than do actual work, right? (I ended up having to finish a report after I got home instead)

Cuzn Ed
Cuzn Ed
5 months ago

Quad round, all day. The rectangles just look like Mo Green to me, or worse.

Myk El
Myk El
5 months ago

The quad setup just looks a little friendlier to me. Not that I believe there to be a wrong answer here.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
5 months ago
Reply to  Myk El

Happy car for the win!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
5 months ago

I want the “L” version.
Fortunately that also is the Quad fascia – which I also want.
Now make mine in something other than International Safety Orange.
Perhaps Alpine White with a Red interior?

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
5 months ago

Team Quad round – it invites a pleasing resonance of a 2002, whereas squares-on-sedan will always be “uh, some kind of AMC probably?”

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

Sorry I want quad rectangle headlight.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
5 months ago

This is a real stumper for me. I might need a coin to make the choice. I like ’em both.

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
5 months ago

Quad. The square ones make it look like t got startled by something

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
5 months ago

I’m voting for four eyes. Looks crisper.

Interesting I never realized these were longitudinal engine layout.

EDIT: And that greenhouse! Ah to live in the times before the glass shortages. :sigh:

Last edited 5 months ago by Andy Individual
Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
5 months ago

I went quad-round, but it wasn’t an obvious decision. I think it looks sharp though, and maybe a little unusual for that kind of car? The rectangles are just a little too typical for that era. Or something… it’s hard to put my finger on.

Industrial_design_guy
Industrial_design_guy
5 months ago

While I experienced a similar hesitancy, I simply can’t vote against quad round headlights. They’re too ingrained in me. So many of my favorite vehicles have this setup. And this era has so many quad setup classics.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
5 months ago

I’m almost always a quad lamp preferer, but they don’t fit with the square front end of that car for some reason. Perhaps everything is too square, so the headlamps are a mis-match?

The rectangular headlamps almost line up with the hood gap. I don’t know if it makes them match better or if I’d always see that they are only “amost” lined-up.

10001010
10001010
5 months ago

I am a certified sucker for square headlights, my 80s Honda Nighthawk has square a square headlight and it’s awesome, my favorite Jeep is the MacGyver YJ, but in this case I prefer the rounds. It’s my only exception in this matter.

Parsko
Parsko
5 months ago

ROUND RULES!

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
5 months ago

Honestly a tough call and I completely understand either choice. I ultimately went for quad rounds, but it took a lot more contemplation than I imagined.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
5 months ago

Quad round: looks like a puppy trying to look mean.
Dual rectangle: looks like the puppy asking for forgiveness after eating your last roll of toilet paper.

The bottom line (if you’ll forgive the pun) – they’re both adorable.

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